Stretch it out with the longest words in the English language

2 min read

Believe it or not, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is not the longest word in the dictionary. That honor belongs to pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters) to describe a lung disease from inhaling volcano silica particles. Fun fact: your doctor won't recognize this word, because it was created to imitate overly long and confusing medical terms. Lucky for you, we’ve got a handy guide to some of the most sesquipedalian (that means long) words, outside of the fields of science and medicine.

Floccinaucinihilipilification

Your nephew’s ragged childhood comic collection probably qualifies for this word, which is the act of declaring something as valueless. Of course, with this many syllables, the word itself is somewhat valueless as almost no one uses it.

Antidisestablishmentarianism

When this word was coined, it was like a rebellion against a rebellion. When citizens demanded governments remove state support for churches (in particular Anglican churches), this countermovement sprang up to oppose the separation of church and state.

Incomprehensibility

While it means something that’s unintelligible, difficult, or hard to understand, this one actually is in use. For example, you could cry, “All of these incomprehensibilities are making it hard for me to choose.”

Honorificabilitudinitatibus

It may be out of date, but this elegant word is seen in Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost" to describe someone who acts in a valiant or honorable way. Another point of pride, it's the longest word in the English language to feature only alternating consonants and vowels.

Embourgeoisement

If you have a friend who’s suddenly into fine wines and artisanal honey since they moved to a luxury building, they’ve likely embraced embourgeoisement, meaning a shift to bourgeois (or upper crust) values and practices.

Pulchritudinous

Sure it doesn’t look or sound all that attractive, but this lengthy word actually means physically beautiful. It comes from the Latin “pulcher,” meaning beautiful, a root word that has largely disappeared from modern English.

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia

Here’s a linguist’s favorite joke. This extended word literally means the fear of long words. And at a whopping 35 letters, we can’t say we blame those folks.

Psychotomimetic

Concocted in the 1950s during the rise of psychedelic drugs, this cerebral name refers to a psychotic alteration of the brain — likely by drugs or chemicals.

Methionylthreonylthreonyglutaminylarginyl … isoleucine

We said no science or medicine words, but the true longest word in English is the chemical name for a protein found in muscle fibers, titin, coming in at 189,819 letters (189,768 of which are hiding in the ellipsis) and taking an astonishing 3.5 hours to pronounce, or so goes one Guinness World Record for saying it.

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